What is the difference between an American Rottweiler and a German Rottweiler? Is there really a difference? How can you tell?
The short answers are: No, there is no difference though a variation in appearance occurs with poor breeding practices and a difference of preference. There should not actually be a difference as there are not two recognized breeds of Rottweiler nor should there be, and you can often tell simply by movement, substance (size, bone) and appearance the quality of breeding and effort that went into each animal.
Germany has strict standards for breeding Rottweilers. Their health, working ability, temperament and conformation are all tested. As such, dogs from Germany tend to be more consistent, stable, and have an overall general appearance that people tend to associate with the term German Rottweiler. America has absolutely no suck standards. Backyard breeders and puppy mills alike churn out thousands of mediocre Rottweiler type dogs who clearly reflect a lack of planning and adherence to any standard on behalf of the humans who bred them.
We must also emphasize country of birth. A "truly" German or European Rottweiler is one that was born in Germany or a European country. An American Rottweiler is one that was born in America.
Why, then, is there a difference?
I've had strangers come up to me and say, "Those are German Rottweilers, aren't they?" upon meeting my dogs. I casually answers yes because the argument about the difference between an American Rottweiler and a German Rottweiler can be a lengthy one.
Let's talk about why there is even the concept that there might be two versions of Rottweilers out there. Standards - the written guidelines of the breed that breeders strive to follow. The Standard is also what a Rottweiler is weighed against while in the conformation show ring.
There are a few different Standards written out there. But for this discussion we need to consider two of them. The American Kennel Club or AKC Standard and the Fédération Internationale Cynologiqueor FCI Standard. Most Kennel Clubs and Breed Registries adhere to the FCI Standard Including the ADRK which is effectively Germany's Rottweiler Kennel Club. FCI is a world wide canine organization. The AKC does not adhere to the FCI standard. And this is where some of the discrepancy in the appearance of the Rottweiler stems from.
The AKC Standard varies slightly from the FCI Standard. It calls for a slightly smaller, less significant dog. Any dog born in America could arguably be called an American Rottweiler. I was born in America - I am American. My husband was born in Canada - he is Canadian. Right? By that logic our own Rottweiler Escobar is French. However, the French registry follows the FCI Standard. As such, expect the same general quality and appearance from those countries as you would Germany. Rottweilers born in America from dogs who better fit the FCI Standard rather than the AKC Standard are typically recognized as "German Rottweilers" because of the appearance and pedigree. Perhaps "German Style Rottweilers" is a more appropriate term.
The other contributing factor to the variation of the Rottweiler breed is the show ring. Again, in the conformation show ring each Rottweiler is weighed against the Standard being used to determine how well they fit the description and if they have any disqualifying faults.
In a German, Seiger, ADRK, USRC, etc style show where the FCI standard is being used we see a larger, heavier boned, dog who is often tailed and who fits into what most well intentioned bystanders would call a German Rottweiler. And they would not be altogether wrong. These dogs are judged by judges who specialize in the breed or in the same general Group of breeds (i.e. Working).
An AKC ring is slightly different. While each breed is separated into their own ring at an all breed show the judges are often not judges who are only familiar with 1 breed or 1 group of breeds. Instead, AKC judges will often judge all manner of dogs in a weekend long All-Breed show that will include everything from tiny toy dogs to Rottweilers. These judges are often trained to watch for the same gait, or movement, across all breeds. As a result Rottweilers are placed at the top when they move the same way a Doberman would move, or maybe an Australian Sheppard. It is possible to attend and exhibit in AKC shows under Judges who specialize in Rottweilers.
The repeated process of placing and breeding dogs to obtain this particular movement preferred by the AKC has elongated and made smaller Rottweilers in the United States. Thus, a smaller, longer dog known as an American Rottweiler compared to the Rottweilers of the rest of the world (including Hungary, Serbia, Germany, France, Croatia, and many more) commonly known here as the German Rottweiler.
There should not be a difference, of course. Many breeders and clubs are currently working to change the AKC standard to that of the FCI or something closer. They're working also to eliminate tail docking and removal of dew claws for strictly cosmetic preferences which are only permitted within AKC. Almost all other countries have banned docking tails.
Both Standards are quoted below for reference.
FCI Rottweiler Standard
AKC Rottweiler Standard
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